Ash Cloud May Help Cruise Industry in the Long Run

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The impact of the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull and the resulting ash cloud that covered most of Northern Europe on the travel industry has been monumental. During the crisis CruiseLineFans tracked and updated its members as to the latest developments in air travel and cruise itinerary changes on an ongoing basis.

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The cruise industry as a whole has done a great deal to help consumers during this difficult time. This can only serve to strengthen the industry's image with prospective travelers and encourage future bookings.

Now that the restrictions have been lifted is there any likely long term impact on the cruise industry?

In the last two weeks, many thousands of travelers have been stranded throughout the world due to the closure of UK and European airports. Cruise passengers have been unable to meet their ships due to cancelled flights, others have been stranded at the disembarkation locations and still others are attempting to meet up with their ship at later ports.

Cunard Cruise Line has seen a dramatic increase in calls requesting information about transatlantic cruises. The Queen Mary’s next three transatlantic crossings are already sold out. Cunard is maintaining a wait list for those people interested in the voyage, but the list is in excess of 1,000 people for each cruise of the next three cruises through May 8. In an attempt to further assist its passengers, Cunard has issued a one-time exception to its booking policies. Spokesperson Jackie Chase is quoted as stating, “…as a one-off exception to our Booking Conditions, Cunard will offer a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) for the fare booked to those guests who have specifically been unable to fly to the United Kingdom and are therefore unable to embark the ship due to the recent air travel disruptions."

Several cruise companies have answered the call for help or volunteered their ships to help transport stranded tourists return home. Inaugural celebrations for Celebrity’s newest vessel, the Eclipse, were put on hold so that the ship could travel to Bilbao, Spain, pick up 2,0000 stranded UK citizens and return them to Southampton. Thomson Cruises’ Island Escape is also assisting in rescue efforts, returning 1,400 travelers, including 300 non-Thomson passengers stranded in Madeira, Funchal.

Many other cruise lines announced emergency contingency plans for its passengers, modified itineraries and either allowed guests to stay on board until adequate lodging or transportations became available or provided on-shore lodging to its disembarked, but stranded passengers.

The river cruise lines have even begun to participate in the logistical response and repatriation efforts now that their season has officially begun in earnest. Avalon has offered to honor or transfer reservations for any upcoming, affected cruise. Viking River Cruises, Uniworld Cruises and AMAWaterways have also both issued statements regarding their policies and itinerary changes, as well as offered additional forms of travel to the points of embarkation.

CEO Alex Saint, himself stranded in Florida during the crisis, says, “The cruise industry as a whole has done a great deal to help consumers during this difficult time. This can only serve to strengthen the industry’s image with prospective travelers and encourage future bookings.”

Clearly the last two weeks have seen depressed levels of sales compared to Wave Season 2010 and significant losses have been reported. However, the apparent fragility of air travel as a weak link in consumers travel plans can only be a positive thing for the cruise industry. Increasingly popular no-fly cruises within Europe and, in addition, transatlantic trips will surely see heightened interest, while the ever diversifying base of ships, destinations and onboard activities can’t fail to make cruise vacations more popular than ever before.

About CruiseLineFans: CruiseLineFans is the fastest growing, most friendly and informative cruise travel forum on the Web. CruiseLineFans plays host to forums dedicated to this discussion of popular cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and many others. Images galleries, polls, roll calls, special cruise deals, cruise and ship reviews, as well as off topic discussion is also available. The forum boasts in excess of 23,000 members, over 38,000 threads, and 1.5 million posts.

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